The Canterbury Rams delivered a final quarter onslaught to come from behind and beat the Super City Rangers in their National Basketball League (NBL) opener.
Canterbury overcame the Auckland side 100-95 at Cowles Stadium on Friday night, courtesy of a dominant fourth quarter effort, where they outscored the Rangers 33-22.
American forward Winston Shepard led the way in his debut for the Rams with a near triple double, contributing 27 points on 11-of-16 shooting, as well as 11 rebounds and eight assists.
US guard Xavier Thames poured in 21 points for Canterbury too, despite his shooting struggles, going 7-of-22 from the floor.
The Rangers were thumped 50-38 in the rebounding battle, only pulling in 12 offensive boards to Canterbury’s 23.
American guard Clay Wilson top-scored for Super City with 21 points, while veteran point guard Lindsay Tait added 19 and nine assists.
There was a lot to like about the performance from the youthful Rams, who have a baby-face Kiwi core, plus their three American imports.
They competed hard for second chance points, getting several tip-ins during the contest through their sheer relentlessness and commitment.
Trailing 73-67 at three quarter time, the Rams roared in front with a 12-0 burst to begin the final term. It took the Rangers just over three minutes to finally get on the board in the quarter through Dominique Kelman-Poto.
Super City closed it up at 83-81, but the Rams finished the game with a powerful charge, spurred on by a vocal home crowd.
A three from Taylor Britt followed by consecutive baskets from US forwards Julian Washburn and Shepard pushed the Rams out to 90-81. Another three from Thames blew it out to 93-81, which was the killer blow.
Schoolboy Max Darling, 17, was everywhere for Canterbury, connecting on an alley-oop, producing a block and pulling down defensive boards in the last quarter.
He finished with an impressive 11 points, eight rebounds and four blocks in his 26 minutes.
Centre Troy Temara also had an outing to remember, showing his strength and size in the low post to notch seven points and five boards.
A 9-1 run in the opening 2.26 of the second half saw the Rangers leap out to a 57-48 buffer.
Midway through the third quarter, Super City’s advantage was out to 10 (64-54) but the Rams refused to go away, producing plenty of hustle and high energy plays.
A pair of free throws from Shepard trimmed the Rangers’ advantage to 66-65 with two minutes left in the term.
The first half was a see-saw affair with the lead swapped four times and the largest margin by either team six points.
Super City took a 48-47 edge into halftime on 54 per cent shooting (17/31), but were let down on the glass, being outrebounded 25-15. Canterbury hauled down 13 offensive boards in the first half to the Rangers’ three.
The Rams shot 44 per cent from the field in the first half (19/43) and were just 3/13 from three point range.
Meanwhile, the Southland Sharks knocked over defending champions, the Wellington Saints, 113-108 in a rematch of last year’s final in the capital in the other Friday night clash.
Canterbury Rams 100 (Winston Shepard 27, Xavier Thames 21, Julian Washburn 14, Max Darling 11) Super City Rangers 95 (Clay Wilson 21, Lindsay Tait 19, Okesene Ale 18, Dominique Kelman-Poto 17) 1Q: 22-17, HT: 47-48, 3Q: 67-73
2018 Rams Team
Max de Geest
Coach: Mark Dickel
Assistant Coaches: Ben Sheat & Piet Van Hasselt
Special Assistant: Bob Kerr
Strength & Conditioning: Andrew MacClennan
Physio: Lidia Belles